Bär, Oskar-Heinz, “Pritzl”

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Bär, Oskar-Heinz “Pritzl” born, 25-5-1913, in Sommerfeld near Leipzig in the Kingdom of Saxony,  a federated state of the German Empire. His parents were farmers, and in 1916, his father was killed in action on the Western Front of World War I.  Bär attended the Volksschule, a combined primary and lower secondary school, in Sommerfeld. Initially, he planned on taking over the family farm in Engelsdorf and following graduation attended the agriculture school in Wurzen. Aged 15, he became a glider pilot, joining the glider club on the “Schwarzer Berg” (Black Mountain)  at Taucha. Bär then wanted to become a forester, for everything associated with wildlife and forests interested him. His first sight of a Junkers transport aircraft changed his mind and convinced him that he should become an aviator. As a teenager, he had ambitions to become an airline pilot with Deutsche LuftHansa . He acquired the nickname Pritzl because of his affection for Pritzl candy bars.

Bär, a Saxon with a strong accent, joined the Reichswehr in 1934 and transferred to the Luftwaffe in 1935. Serving first as a mechanic, then as a pilot on transport aircraft, he was informally trained as a fighter pilot 275cfb18185b19240b2f6b3156d34755. He claimed his first aerial victory in September 1939 on the French border. By the end of the Battle of Britain, his tally of victories had increased to 17. Transferred to the Eastern Front to participate in Operation Barbarossa, he quickly accumulated further kills, a feat that earned him the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords for 90 aerial victories in February 1942.

On 23 April, Bär transferred to the elite Jet Experten unit Jagdverband 44, JV 44, led by Adolf Galland On 26 April, he assumed command of the unit when Galland was wounded. Bär possibly flew his first operational sortie with JV 44 on 27-04-1945. Flying the Me 262 A-1/U5, a six MK 108 cannon prototype, he was accompanied by Major Wilhelm Herget  and the non-commissioned officer, NCO  Unterofficer Franz Köster when the trio engaged American fighters over Riem; Bär claimed one aerial victory. While not flying operationally, Bär spent most of his time giving hasty instruction to the new pilots still being assigned to JV 44. With JV 44, he achieved his final four aerial victories (3P-47s and 1 Mosquito on 28 April, bringing his total to 220. All told, he had achieved 16 victories in the Me 262, making him the second most successful Jet Expert of the war, which he finished as an Oberstleutnant. Wilhelm Herget died age 63 on 27-03-1974 in Stuttgart.

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Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1a – EJG 2 – Major Heinz Bär During the final days of the Second World War in Europe, Generalleutnant Adolf Galland attempted to surrender JV 44 to American forces from his hospital bed. At the same time General der Flieger Karl Koller had ordered JV 44 to relocate to Praque and continue fighting. Bär, as a Galland loyalist, attempted to ignore the order. Bär was further pressured to relocate JV 44 when Generalmajor Dietrich Peltz ,  commander of IX Fliegerkorps, and Oberst Hajo Herrmann ,  commander of 9. Flieger Division (J), unexpectedly emerged at the control room in Maxqlan on 02-05-1945. Dietrich Peltz died old age 87 on 10-08-2001 in Munich and Hajo Herrmann died old age 97 on 05-11-2010 in Kiel.  A heated and violent dispute erupted between Bär, Peltz and Herrmann, witnessed by Walter Krupinski  He later recalled that Bär responded with “Yes, sir, but we are under the command of Generalleutnant Galland, and I will only follow orders of Generalleutnant Galland!”—a final act of disobedience that Krupinski believed could have led to Bär being shot for insubordination. Walter Krupinski died age 79 on 07-10-2000 in Neunkirchen-Seelscheid.

In the early morning hours of 4 May 1945, Bär gathered the pilots of JV 44 for a final briefing. Bär ordered the remaining Me 262 destroyed before going into captivity and interrogation by US Intelligence officers of the 1st Tactical Air Force’s Air Prisoner of War Interrogation Unit, based at Heidelberg.

During the remainder of World War II, Bär was credited with 130 other aerial victories, including 16 while flying one of the first jet fighters, the Me 262, an achievement which would normally have earned him the coveted Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Hermann Goering‘s personal dislike of Bär, coupled with Bär’s insubordinate character and lack of military discipline, deprived him of this award.

Death and burial ground of Bär, Oskar-Heinz “Pritzl”

bar1  bar2xp0 After World War II, Bär continued his career as an aviator. He was killed in a flying accident on 28-04-1957, age 43, near Braunschweig. There is a Remembrance stone Baer Sommerfeld on the local cemetery of Sommerfeld/Leipzig, but my friend Wolfgang Linke from Frankfurt am Main, found his grave on the Sudfriedhof of Frankfurt am Main, in Section B.

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Cemetery location of Bär, Oskar-Heinz “Pritzl”

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